If you're in the market for health insurance, HealthCare.gov can help you find specific options quickly and easily. All you have to do is answer a few simple questions, such as your state of residence, employment status, the number of people who need coverage and any relevant health issues. If you're wary of providing the government with your information, know that the system is unable to retain any of the data you provide.
Based on this information, the insurance finder pulls up options that may be relevant to your situation. For example, a father of two who just lost his job would receive 10 options, including one about COBRA coverage, enrolling in a spouse's plan, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
If this man decided that he wanted to purchase a new plan, he could enter his ZIP code to pull up specific companies offering insurance in that area. HealthCare.gov currently has information from more than 1,000 insurance carriers and more than 5,000 individual plans and products. The consumer can view each of the plans that a company offers, from the benefits to the doctors who are covered by the plan. The links to that information are provided by the insurance companies themselves, which means they have an incentive to provide easy-to-understand information and affordable care. After all, if you're comparing a company that has a confusing benefit system and a byzantine Web site to a company that makes things very easy to understand, you're more likely to go with the latter option.
In October 2010, HealthCare.gov will include pricing information for these plans, though it should be noted that those numbers will be only estimates. An individual would still have to go through the underwriting process at the insurance company and may be subject to a different fee. Still, the administration is hopeful that the basic estimates will give people a better idea of how much certain plans cost so that you won't have to waste time pursuing one that's completely out of your league. Though HealthCare.gov will provide pricing information, consumers can't buy insurance through the site. For that, they'll have to go directly to the insurer (HealthCare.gov lists contact information).
HealthCare.gov will continue to evolve until 2014. At that point, the site will also function as a portal to all state-administered insurance exchanges, which are required by the new legislation. In the short term, however, there are yellow feedback boxes located all over HealthCare.gov; the government is requesting user feedback on each page so that the site can continually be improved for consumers.
If you'd like to learn about other features of the health care reform legislation, see the links on the next page.